I play many forms of music with many different groups. This past weekend I performed as part of the Atlantic Sinfonia, a professional chamber orchestra based in Fredericton, NB. I got thinking about the rewards and challenges of playing with such a group and thought I would share them with you.
Formed in 2004, the Atlantic Sinfonia is a group of professional musicians from New Brunswick. The ensemble alternates between concerts featuring a string ensemble, usually formed of about 13 members, and concerts featuring a wind ensemble. As could be guessed, I am involved in the concerts that feature strings.
This group performs in an 18th century style, standing up instead of sitting down. I actually prefer standing to play the violin as there is more freedom of movement. Also, if you who have played your violin sitting down, you will know that you legs are constantly in the way! Standing up eliminates this problem.
The big challenge of playing in such a group is that we don’t have a conductor. This means that we are playing more as a chamber group than as an orchestra. We have to be really in touch with the other players to stay together. During rehearsals we have to decide who is going to cue each beginning in the music. For the most part, it is our concertmaster, so he is not only playing his own part, but cueing the rest of us.
We also spend time in rehearsal making sure that we are all on the same page as far as expression, dynamics and bowings. Without a conductor, everyone is more a part of the decisions about expression in the music. It is a more democratic setting than working with a conductor.
As far as rewards, I love being in a small group and feeling like I am really important. I know that all the players in a symphony are important, but when you are one of 10-12 second violins, you don’t always feel that way. In the Atlantic Sinfonia, there were only four second violins. Playing in a chamber orchestra you definitely feel like you are making a difference!
Please leave a comment if you have any experiences playing in a group that you would like to share!